IWCA

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butchersapron
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May 6 2004 21:35
IWCA

Anyone got any opinions of the IWCA - whether it's on their aims, the way they operate, problems with the people involved (i know a number of members are not that keen on Red Action), the strategy they've outlined - anything basically.

I've seen very little enagagement with what they're doing other than a short piece in the last but one Black Flag - and given that their aims of empowering working class areas is pretty similiar to ours and other anarchists groups i'm wondering just why that is. Have people decided that they'll have nothing to do with them due to certain parts of their approach? Or past problems? Or is the info about their activity not circulated enough? Or are people just getting on with the same sort of activity off their own bat?

Anyone got any thoughts?

(For the record, i'm broadly supportive, but have concerns about some specific areas - i have to say the IWCA members i know have been more than happy to discuss this and take on board constructive points though)

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Steven.
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May 7 2004 12:06

Hmmm well there's a branch where I live, so I emailed them saying i was interested, wondering what kind of stuff going on. I got a short email back asking my political background, so I told them and then - nothing. I also tried from my work email, but the same thing happened.

The idea sounds alright - I mean it's pretty much what most anarchists have been saying for years so I don't see why there's so much "wow the IWCA!", cos it's not new. Maybe it's just the use of "working class" in the name grin

Also in London it seems like almost all of their energies are spent on elections anyway - especially for mayor - so I think that pretty much takes away most of their "street cred" in my eyes.

But we're all on roughly the same side so I'm not gonna say anything else.

(Am not an AF member, btw)

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pingtiao
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May 10 2004 09:15

The critique that I have heard most is that they are just another bunch of politicians. The point I think is that whne they become councillors, they will be subject to all the same pressures that normal councillors are under, and will compromise and be "realistic" as required.

I don'tr entirely agree with this, and currently would say I am cautiously supportive, without being involved.

The London Mayor thing has just been an attempt at raising the profile of the organisation, and not a real shot at gaining the mayoralship.

nastyned
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May 11 2004 14:01

The IWCA do seem to have done some good stuff. I went to a very interesting talk by a bloke from Birmingham New Town IWCA (which i don't think exists anymore) a few years ago.

But still a lot of problems with them...

The whole electorial thing i'm totally against. It runs counter to our politics and saying it's only for propaganda purposes seems very dubious to me.

I'm also very unclear exactly what the structure of the IWCA is but i suspect red action have a controling role. Got to say, i don't trust them as far as i could throw them.

meanoldman
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May 17 2004 18:15
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Also in London it seems like almost all of their energies are spent on elections anyway - especially for mayor - so I think that pretty much takes away most of their "street cred" in my eyes.

And £20k. eek

Some of what they're doing is positive, especially in showing up the rest of the lefts claim to be standing up for the working class but I find them fundamentally reformist and their electoralism disturbing. No thanks.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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May 17 2004 19:05

IWCA? In Nottingham the local antifa group fights shy of them (pun intended), largely because they see Notts Red Action as abandoning the field to the fascists by leaving the street fighting. In Notts there's a *large* fascist presence, and many of them are NF rather than BNP...

I have to wonder -- if Red Action were so active in Notts AFA then why hasn't an IWCA branch materialised here? Apparently a few years ago AFA hosted a series of 'filling the void' meetings when the BNP left street politics. They got quite a few peope along in Nottm, but there's no IWCA-style group come out of it. Likewise, none of the Northern AFA groups (manchester, Leeeds, Liverpool or Bradford) have created IWCA groups.

All this leads me to suspect that IWCA branches, right now, only exist where there are certain committed Red Action members to sustain them. They've clearly pulled in more people than just the RA lot, but these people are still the core.

Having said that, where they've managed to keep going -- Oxford, Hackney and Islington -- they have done good work.

GBush -- the reason that the IWCA is significantly differernt to 'what anarchists have been saying all along' is that they actually DO what we say should be done! How many groups manage to keep radical pro-working class pavement politics going over a consistent period of time? How many groups manage to use community direct action on law and order issues? Precious few. Many libertarian groups focus mainly on propaganda and campaigning, and this takes all our time. -- then a crisis kicks off in Bolivia or Palestine and we dash off to campaign on that. The very limited perspective of the IWCA is one of it's strengths. Of course it lacks deep politics, but the very rejection of 'socilaism' and ideology is a damn good start.

Hopefully the IWCA is only one example of the kind of post-leftist, post Parliament community direct action that we'll start to see more and more of. Hopefully we'll also be part of this.

nastyned
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May 17 2004 23:01

I'm sure there was an attempt by Nottingham AFA to become an IWCA group. They had a public meeting to discuss community issues and the main concern seemed to be the amount of dog shit on the streets...

So a dog shit collecting day was arranged and as far as i know that was the end of the group!

Dpn't see how the IWCA are 'post-leftist' what ever that means. Look like leftists to me.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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May 18 2004 16:15

Any more info on the Notts meeting/Notts IWCA?

I'm lazily using the term 'post leftist' to describe the IWCa because they are consciously against ideology, socialist or otherwise, and instead believe that a strong grassroots class struggle consciousness should determeine how their groups behave, rather than any pre thought out plan.

And they're primitivists too. Mr. T

nastyned
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May 18 2004 22:45

The infamous Notts dogshit thing was years ago. I'm sure the AF members in Nottingham can fill you in if you know them.

The Blast
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May 26 2004 15:28

Not that I'm one to engage in unsubstantiated idle gossip.....but if said rumours are to be believed Red Action are thoroughly in the driving seat of the IWCA and getting more centralist by the day (democratically centralist though, of course). This would hardly be suprising if found to be true. After all, RA did start it up and I can hardly imagine them honourably relinquishing control of the organisation as other people got involved.

So first off, I'm highly dubious about their internal structure.

Secondly Their electoralism makes any kind of support a no-no for me. I'm an anarchist ffs!

Thirdly, I've no idea what their politics are. They seems to be based on some kind of Sinn Fein model. Though what are the IWCA's final aims? "Working class rule in working class areas" could mean a number of different things. They are standing in the mayoral elections in London. Is the whole of London a working class area then? Are the working class to rule through one person, the Mayor?

Fourthly, and related to the previous point, while I have no problem at all with organising around single issues (or a series of single issues) with the aim of winning immediate reforms, I don't think this is enough. An openly revolutionary message is not to be shyed away from either. I have no intention of getting involved with an organisation where I would end up holding back from stating my desire for a totally different world. Also, I find it fundamentally dishonest for people involved in politics to keep their true ideas hidden away from others which Red Action are clearly doing as the driving force behind the IWCA. If they consider themselves revolutionaries they should say so. If not then they should drop the revolutinary sounding slogans. Or are they trying to be all things to all people?

Finally, erm, the workplace?

The IWCA are doing some interesting practical stuff and during their formation they they certainly influenced me in this regard. I suspect the main reason they get a decent hearing in anarchist circles is due to the faliure of anarchists to get pragmatic and start organising around issues that actually matter in day to day life. This isn't a reason for us to start eyeing up the IWCA. I'm sure we are capable of taking the best from what they are doing and dropping the failed leftist crap that will eventually lead them up the same dead end that every other progressive political party has ended up at.

The Blast
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May 27 2004 11:49

One other thing I should have mentioned.

RA set up the IWCA in response to the BNP's change of strategy a few years ago. This makes the IWCA largely an anti-fascist tactic (I think, though as I said previously, I'm not sure what their ultimate aims are).

Its quite an interesting development really. There is a critique of anti-fascism that says that it inevitably leads to the defence of the democratic state. Looking at RA's political trajectory from direct action anti-fascists to electoral candidates, this is exactly what they have ended up doing.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to defeat the BNP, but prioritising it to the extent that a group constantly mirrors their tactics is very short sighted and the reason for their descent into electoralism. The BNP have to be seen as part and parcel of the capitalist system. Anti-fascist activities need to be part of a general anti-capitalist, anti-state movement. For RA/IWCA they are not. They have changed their activities, but still with the aim of merely challenging the BNP alone, rather than helping build a revolutionary movement. So this is another issue that I have with them.

butchersapron
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May 27 2004 12:41

Right, a longer reply on the substantive isues and points raised is forthcoming, but i just quickly wanted to make a point about Red Action and Democratic Centralism/leninism etc.

Maybe i'm biased because my partner is in the IWCA and some of my mates are 'leading member's' (just using that phrase for conveniences sake, so don't make anything of it) or maybe this means i get to hear/see more of their actual activity and discusion. Red Action, doesn't really exist anymore, it's totally subsumed itself into the IWCA, and on top of that they've explicitly rejected leninism and democratic centralism for quite a few years now - at least a decade.

RA are a minority in the IWCA, and certianly don't 'control' anything - the structure and constitution has been set up to make sure that no one caucus or group can take over. Stuart Craft, the Oxford councillor came out of the anarchist scene - surely it would be a RA member if they were pulling the strings?

There's a very real danger of building RA up into leninist bogey-men, and dismisisng a whole heap of valuable work - work that few on the anarchist 'scene' seem to recognise the immediate practical value of - (not on about the AF here, we're very good on that) on this basis.

None of which means i'm arguing any point beyond the above at the minute, so don't all jump down my throat accusing me of bolstering the local state or anything grin

Lazlo_Woodbine
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May 27 2004 18:56

Blast -- you make some good points. In fact, they're a good summary of the anarchist reasons for opposing/ignoring the IWCA as an organisation.

However, I think only one is crucial -- the role of Red Action. I remember the last old Class War (#73) in 1997 saying they were worried about this organisation being controlled by 'Leninist boot boys'. If this is still true, or if it were ever really true, then this would make me worry about the organisation and teh appriach as a whole.

Because what I'm talking about is an approach that I like -- the bringing of activism into close contact with the immediate needs of neighbourhoods. The IWCA branches say they act on the basis of close and immediate contact with people in their area. Maybe they don't; maybe they actually operate according to a pre-worked out semi-vanguardist plan...

The point I raised before worries me: No IWCA branch exists except that it has been created by the work of a core of (usually ex-RA) activists. All community groups operate on the basis of a core, I'm afraid -- but can the IWCA break out of this initial activist base?

Standing for Mayor is one of the ways I think they plan to do this -- get the message out across all the boroughs that a local political group can operate. Let's be honest -- standing for mayor is simply a publicity stunt and marks a break with the community-based approach that I admire.

All that considered, I still think that anarchists have a lot to learn from the actions of the IWCA branches. They are getting a lot done -- maybe if all anarchos in the UK turned to a similar approach we'd get even more done. We would have to abandon a lot of other activities, of course. The IWCA is focussed just on the neighbourhood to the exclusion of all else.

maybe the anarcho movement shouldn'ty abandon it's diversity to copy the IWCA appoach. But I certianly they will light up the importance of long-term neighbourhood actvism, and I hope that a lot of people will be inspired by yhis.

I certainly have been 8)

The Blast
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May 27 2004 23:01

Yes butchersapron, sorry, the democratic centralism remark was unhelpful. However, the way that RA shut down AFA was authoritarian wasn't it? And this is linked to the birth of the IWCA, no? So although suggesting they are Leninists or Trots is innacurate, I still think that RA, who went on to play a major role in founding the IWCA, behaved in an authoritarian manner back then.

I've no idea how much you know about the inner workings of the IWCA but in my opinion the control of an organisation comes down to seemingly mundane things like who has access to the post, looks after the phone, knows the password to the e-mail contact account, updates the website, and has the group's publication template on their PC. These tasks being rotated between all branches equally (or as near to this as is possible) is necessary for an organisation to be egalitarian. The prescence of an Internal Bulletin open to and distributed among all members is also a pre-requisite. Does this happen in the IWCA? (If that sounds like a snide question it isn't btw - I'm interested to know as most of what I've hard so far is just gossip).

Lazlo W:

Quote:
All that considered, I still think that anarchists have a lot to learn from the actions of the IWCA branches. They are getting a lot done -- maybe if all anarchos in the UK turned to a similar approach we'd get even more done.

Yes, as I said they have influenced me. I abandoned a whole load of activities (that looking back were pretty near useless) as a result of what I read in RA and by observing the IWCA's early activities.

I think someone started a thread for anarchists involved in commuity stuff to post their activities to. When i do so I'd be interested to hear your and other peoples opinions on what wag get up to. We have established an anarchist prescence where we live after 3 years of sustained hard graft and committment and as a result have lots of links with locals and a widely read and appreciated newsletter. I guess what I'm getting at is that there is no reason why we can't take the best bits of what the IWCA are doing and leave behind the parts we are dubious about or reject outright.

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Serge Forward
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May 30 2004 23:24
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
All that considered, I still think that anarchists have a lot to learn from the actions of the IWCA branches. They are getting a lot done

But what exactly are they getting done that has any value to us as anarchists? Because the odd councillor and localised versions of the "keep Britain tidy" campaign aren't very appealing.

Rob

The Blast
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May 31 2004 11:34

I think that's a bit too dismissive Serge!

In a few limited areas some IWCA activists have involved themselves with important issues of local concern and actually helped people get together to improve things where they live. Surely the fact that they pick up quite a few votes is a sign that they have gained the respect and support of working class people in their area. Though its not good that they are leading this support off into the electoral dead end, that they have this support is an achievement.

Thinking about the IWCA a bit more, my biggest problem with them is that they are clearly attempting to build a mass party of working class people. I can't see how a minority of political activists creating an organisation that the working class are then expected to fit in to is anything other than a form of vanguardism. The class will create its own mass organisations or fail to free itself. This is not to say that there isn't a role for organised groups of revolutionaries in the meantime, just that that role is not to pre-empt the form of organisation that people will themselves create in order to destroy capitalism.

Also, check out this quote from the faq part of their website:

Quote:
Once again can you explain what you mean by working class ‘self-government’?

Under Thatcher, a series of changes in local government funding took place whereby funding was increasingly doled out and, all importantly, controlled by central government. This has caused two things to happen: on the one hand an absence of proper funding for working class areas has seen the infrastructure which previously catered for people’s needs devastated, with the ‘savings’ made through the cuts being returned to the better off in the form of tax concessions.

And along with the inability to provide proper services, we have also seen the tendency to ever-larger wards with a correspondingly greater gap between councillors and the people who elected them. Along with these two fundamental reverses, the role of elected councillors in the decision-making process has been minimised; the substitute is a ‘cabinet’ style system where as few as nine councillors decide on who gets what. Priorities again. Needless to say, this erosion of democratic accountability will, at some stage in the future, see the need for any form of representative government at all at the local level being called into question. Already well-salaried cabinet-run councils are regarded in some quarters as a preparation for affairs at a local level being administered by un-elected appointees.

It is a trend that, should it continue, will see working class people confronted with the choice of either self-government and democracy, or no services and no democracy.

I can't see the difference between this approach and the SWP getting people to vote Labour a few years ago in order to turn round and moan "We didn't vote for this". If the IWCA believe in the "need for any form of representative government at all at the local level being called into question" why don't they do so now reather than prop up a decaying system by canvasing for votes. How are they not acting duplicitously in asking people to vote them in to an office that they see as ultimately reactionary? Most people are fully aware of the ultimate impotence of local councils, which is why they don't vote in local elections. Do the IWCA agree with them or not? These sort of manipulative lefty shenanigans display quite clearly that the IWCA's claim to be a clear break with the left are false.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Jul 1 2004 11:59

Butchers never did send a proper reply. Shame.

Too busy arguing with trots on U75?

butchersapron
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Jul 2 2004 12:56
Lazlo_Woodbine wrote:
Butchers never did send a proper reply. Shame.

Too busy arguing with trots on U75?

I'm busy writing it atm - have decided to do a proper full length response, than just a few bunged together thoughts not fully fleshed out as this is actually a very important issue (well i think it is anyway) - will post it on here as soon as complete.

And on all that arguing with trots is on work time - i'm being paid for it...

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Jul 3 2004 14:06

Cool! Looking forward to it 8)

meanoldman
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Aug 6 2004 17:46

Where's this full length response eh butchers? I'm assumming the (badly written and argued) piece on U75 had nothing to do with you. For those who don't frequent U75 there's a pretty decent debate about the IWCA going on now.

http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=83774

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PaulMarsh
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Aug 11 2004 06:59
meanoldman wrote:
For those who don't frequent U75 there's a pretty decent debate about the IWCA going on now.

http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=83774

That debate has been quite a good one, although I would put the IWCA ahead on points so far!

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pingtiao
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Aug 11 2004 12:42

Excluding Joe Reilly i'd agree with you.

Mike Harman
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Aug 17 2004 15:30

Thanks for the heads up on that thread, although it's gone to shit now.

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rat
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Aug 18 2004 08:23

IWCA?

If they walk like The Left, talk like The Left and act like The Left then they may well be...The Left!

nastyned
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Aug 18 2004 14:00

I agree with the last post. The IWCA look like lefties to me.

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PaulMarsh
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Aug 18 2004 16:05
yearzero wrote:
IWCA?

If they walk like The Left, talk like The Left and act like The Left then they may well be...The Left!

Er ...... the one thing the IWCA have tried to do is avoid the trappings of leftism (e.g, the usual leftie habit adopting positions on issues they cannot realistically effect in the short term - Iraq, Palestine etc) or telling the working class what to think - instead they have done survey work asking people what their concerns were, then based their poilitcal activity on that.

You may or may not agree with that approach. But both the above examples contradict your quote.

nastyned
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Aug 18 2004 21:06

I'm still with yearzero on this one.

the IWCA are a small political party formed by a marxist splinter group with a reformist programme (with possibly a more radical agenda they keep in the background). They seek positions of power by running in elections (local, london mayor and possibly soon for parliament). They look like lefties to me!

I don't see why not having a line Iraq and doing surveys means they're not lefties. confused

The Blast
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Aug 19 2004 14:20

The basic idea behind the IWCA is to set up a political Party to replace an irreversably reactionary Labour Party. Lefties have been tring to do this for years. The IWCA are merely following in this 100 year old left-wing tradition.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Sep 2 2004 12:01

So where's Butcher's article? Have I missed something?